Book review: Haven’t They Grown by Sophie Hannah

Thursday, January 30, 2020 Permalink

What I really liked about this book by Sophie Hannah is that though the lead character Beth sees something completely impossible, she’s conscious of its improbability and considers alternatives despite being sure she’s not mistaken. And of course, given my logic-loving ways…. I also liked that Hannah steers clear of the fantastic and (eventually) the inexplicable as we unpick the mystery.

Book review: Haven’t They Grown by Sophie HannahHaven't They Grown
by Sophie Hannah
Published by Hodder & Stoughton
on 28/01/2020
Source: Hachette Australia
Genres: Psychological Thriller
ISBN: B07HFBMFRC, 9781444776195
Pages: 352

All Beth has to do is drive her son to his Under-14s away match, watch him play, and bring him home.

Just because she knows her ex-best friend lives near the football ground, that doesn't mean she has to drive past her house and try to catch a glimpse of her. Why would Beth do that, and risk dredging up painful memories? She hasn't seen Flora for twelve years. She doesn't want to see her today, or ever again.

But she can't resist. She parks outside the open gates of Newnham House, watches from across the road as Flora and her children Thomas and Emily step out of the car. Except... There's something terribly wrong. Flora looks the same, only older. As Beth would have expected. It's the children. Twelve years ago, Thomas and Emily were five and three years old. Today, they look precisely as they did then.

They are still five and three. They are Thomas and Emily without a doubt - Hilary hears Flora call them by their names - but they haven't changed at all.

They are no taller, no older... Why haven't they grown?

We eventually learn ‘why’ Flora and Beth fell out 12 years earlier. Of course, the women’s versions of events differ. And though (for me) the way was actually a bit of an anticlimax, it’s also a reminder of how we magnify things in our minds, and that our actions or those of others, can be blown out of proportion and sometimes mis-remembered.

As I was reading this I was remembering JP Delaney’s book, The Perfect Wife in which a silicon valley zillionaire brings his dead wife back to life, so had a pretty open mind when it came to explaining the unaged children.

Hannah does a great job of having we readers believe Beth, so we’re willing to suspend disbelief – hence my consideration of something involving technology or futuristic science (cloning for eg)… far more palatable to me than something mystical.

But Beth works through the pieces. Although she’s offered an explanation which seemingly makes sense, it’s obvious those involved aren’t being altogether truthful. And ultimately… things are not – perhaps were never – as they seem.

I loved Beth’s doggedness and I appreciated the relationship she had with her husband and kids – particularly given that they’d be justified in doubting her sanity. It’s rare to read about functional families (in the sort of books I read) so I’m always kinda surprised to find parents and kids in healthy and positive relationships. Of course that can’t be said for all of the families we meet here.

As a reader I was hoping for a plausible solution to what Beth has seen and we kinda (almost) get that. I did wonder how feasible it would be (IRL) but in some ways it brings something slightly sinister to the story. I liked the twistiness of the end but also the way things pan out post end-of-novel-crisis.

Haven’t They Grown by Sophie Hannah was published in Australia by Hachette on 28 January 2020.

I note this book is also known as The Perfect Children in some overseas markets.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher for review purposes. 


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